The holarchy of needs is a whole new way to envision Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (pun intended).
This short post provides a brief overview of a couple modern evolutions of Maslow’s pyramid along with a proposal for a holarchy of needs.
Maslow’s Holarchy of Needs: Should the Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid be Redesigned?
Did you know Maslow never put his hierarchy of needs into a pyramid? This usually blows peoples’ minds when they first hear it. How did the pyramid come about?
I’ve read somewhere that the pyramid originated with a visual used in a newspaper article—the article was written by Maslow, but the visual was not created by him. Others claim to have traced the pyramid to management consultants in the 1960s. However it started, it has stuck for decades.
The problem is that there are a couple big issues with the pyramid:
- Most iterations of the pyramid show a peak of self-actualization—they are missing transcendence (Maslow’s highest level from his latest work)
- A pyramid is more hierarchical than how Maslow actually described the needs—this leads people to view the pyramid as clear levels that you get to one by one instead of it being a dynamic interplay of needs
So, we need some new ways to visualize Maslow’s needs.
Maslow’s Wave of Needs
This is a made-up name for this one because I haven’t been able to locate the original source (if you know, please leave a comment or contact me). It’s possible that this design may have originated in a 1988 book titled Becoming an Effective Classroom Manager by Bob Steere.
It’s an interesting idea that seems to convey that as personal development grows, new needs emerge and previous needs seem to diminish in their intensity. However, it’s important to note that no needs ever completely disappear. Also, like most pyramid visuals, this is critically missing transcendence. But, you get the gist.
Maslow’s Sailboat of Needs
- “Life isn’t a trek up a summit but a journey to travel through—a vast blue ocean, full of new opportunities for meaning and discovery but also danger and uncertainty. In this choppy surf, a clunky pyramid is of little use. Instead, what is needed is something a bit more functional. We’ll need a sailboat.”
Maslow’s Holarchy of Needs
After learning about holons and holarchy, this idea just fell into place. However, I’m no expert. I’m very open to feedback if you believe this proposal is a misinterpretation of these concepts.
Here is my proposal for Maslow’s holarchy of needs:
What is a holon, and what is a holarchy?
The terms were coined by Arthur Koestler. Here are some highlights from Wikipedia (1, 2):
- Holon: “Simultaneously a whole in itself and at the same time is nested within another holon and so is a part of something much larger than itself”; “holons at one level are ‘made up of, or make up’ the holons or parts of another level”
- Holarchy: “a hierarchy of self-regulating holons that function first as autonomous wholes in supra-ordination to their parts, secondly as dependent parts in sub-ordination to controls on higher levels, and thirdly in coordination with their local environment”
- Holarchic Relationship: “subatomic particles ↔ atoms ↔ molecules ↔ macromolecules ↔ organelles ↔ cells ↔ tissues ↔ organs ↔ organisms ↔ communities ↔ societies”
What do you think about this proposal?
Please let me know in the comments.
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